Does anyone remember peak oil? Back in 2007, several doomsday prophets said demand for oil would outpace production as reserves dried up. If they weren't feeling a bit sheepish about the news that America is becoming a net oil exporter again, they will now that Alberta could have enough oil and gas to last us a century.
Big news from our quiet neighbors to the North
According to a recent study from the Energy Resources Conservation Board of Alberta, the province could be sitting on 3,324 trillion cubic feet (TCF) of natural gas, 58.6 billion barrels of gas liquids, and 423.6 billion barrels of oil that have yet to be explored. Compared with the 2,214 TCF of reserves for the entire United States, Alberta alone could be the richest source of natural gas on the planet.
These new discoveries are enough to fuel current American demand for oil for 50 years, with enough natural gas for 130 years! What also makes these findings astounding is that many of these shale plays are found on the Alberta/British Columbia border, and the B.C. estimates were not included in the report.
As exciting as these numbers may be, we have to remember that this was a preliminary study and these are not proven reserves, so there is no guarantee. Even if these plays do turn out to be as big as they claim, you also have to consider how much of that amount gas companies will be able to extract. But this is enough news to make several major oil and gas exploration companies peek under a few stones to see what's going on north of the border.
"Go north, American companies, and grow up with the natural gas boom"
Unless you're an avid follower of the Toronto and Vancouver Exchanges, you probably haven't heard of many of the smaller oil and gas players that have major holdings in these areas. That doesn't mean U.S. investors will need to venture away from the American exchanges to get a piece of this new discovery, though. Occidental Petroleum (NYSE:OXY) is dipping its toes in the water with some preliminary tests in the Montney shale play in northwest Alberta. Devon Energy (NYSE:DVN), which has more than 170,000 acres in the Horn River Basin, is well placed within its holdings to make a play in the Muskwa formation, a sub-region within the basin.
ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM) just recently agreed to acquire Celtic Exploration, a major player in both the Montney and Duvernay shale plays. The $3.1 billion agreement was announced within a day or so of the report, so this could end up being a steal for ExxonMobil. Pengrowth Energy (NYSE:PGH) has jumped in on the action as well. It completed a deal back in July to acquire all remaining shares of Monterey Exploration for approximately $366 million.
One of the more interesting plays in the recent developments in Alberta is Enerplus Resources Fund (NYSE:ERF). Since its earnings release and its announcement to sell off its Manitoba assets and discontinue its leases in the Marcellus Shale, the company's shares have dropped almost 20%. Despite this spate of bad news, the company does have large holdings in the Duvernay and Muskwa formations. The following graphic shows Enerplus' tight gas holdings and the location of the Muskwa and Duvernay formations.
The almost serendipitous location of Enerplus' holdings could bode well for the company as it tries to get back to profitability. If any of the fields mentioned in the report turn out even a fraction of what they claim, any company that has holdings in this region could find itself producing oil and gas for decades to come.
What a Fool believes
These huge oil and gas findings could be very lucrative for upstream oil and gas companies and could potentially help bring North America closer to energy independence. This doesn't mean other companies will miss out, though. The United States is still finding large shale deposits, Iraq wants to become the world's largest exporter of oil, and China is trying to find a way to tap its vast natural gas reserves. There are hundreds of companies that could benefit from this slew of newly discovered natural gas, but they all have one thing in common: a single company that could be The Only Energy Stock You'll Ever Need. Our analysts at The Motley Fool have put together a free report dishing the dirty secrets about this company, and you can have your own copy by clicking here.
Fool contributor Tyler Crowe has no positions in the stocks mentioned above. You can follow him on Fool.com under TMFDirtyBird, Google +, or Twitter @TylerCroweFool.
The Motley Fool owns shares of Devon Energy and ExxonMobil. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.